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Pledge’s death brings suspension for Florida fraternity

Daytona Beach’s Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has suspended the activities of its chapter of a music fraternity in the midst of a lawsuit involving the death of one of its pledges. The young man was killed in a tragic 2012 car accident involving other pledges.

The national fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, and its local chapter, Pi Gamma, are both defendants in the lawsuit filed by the 19-year-old victim’s mother. A student in the fraternity who was supposed to be acting as a “big brother” and an assistant dean of students are also named in the suit. The victim’s mother blames the defendants for negligence and failing in their duty to protect the students.

According to the lawsuit, the fraternity’s hazing activities caused the death of the young man, a member of the school’s marching band. According to HBCUBuzz, a website that covers historically black colleges and universities, the driver of the car in which he and other pledges were riding hit a utility pole. He was the only one killed in the crash.

The suit contends that the hazing activities that the pledges were put through left them so sleep deprived that the driver lost control of the vehicle. The accident occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2012, after the students left the apartment of one of the fraternity’s leaders.

The lawsuit paints an ugly picture of the fraternity’s hazing activities. It alleges that the pledges were required to go without food or sleep. Among other things, they were beaten if they did not dress completely in black.

According to the plaintiff, the school has a long history of grueling hazing that endangers not only the pledges, but those in the surrounding community who could be injured or killed in auto accidents and other activities. The lawyer representing the victim’s mother says that in addition to the $15,000-plus in damages they are seeking, they want the school to ban hazing.

We have seen too many cases of fraternity and sorority pledges who died from alcohol poisoning and other causes linked to cruel and bizarre activities surrounding pledging. It sometimes seems the only way to incentivize the schools and fraternities involved to more closely monitor pledging and other “Greek” activities is to hold them civilly and possibly criminally responsible.

Source: Daytona Times, “Music fraternity ordered to suspend activities at B-CU” James Harper, Oct. 10, 2013

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